As I write these words, it has been 6 days since the most recent mass shooting in America. After last week's violence at an Oregon high school where a student was killed and teacher wounded by 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, President Barack Obama took to the television airwaves with incredulous frustration as to the deepening crisis in the land of the free and home of the brave.
"We're the only developed country on Earth where this happens," he said, during a live Tumblr feed from the White House following the incident. "And it happens now once a week. And it's a one-day story. There's no place else like this.”
He’s right. Nowhere in the world is there such a high propensity for non-military or law enforcement related gun violence like in the good ol’ US of A. The causes and blame run the gamut of reasoning.
Some believe it’s the culture of rebellious violence that has been bred in this country from day one. Violence is ingrained into our national anthem.
The rockets’ red glare
The bombs bursting in air
From cowboys and Indians to cops and robbers, small children have indulged in games where they mimic violence in most cultures throughout the world. Maybe it's rap music? No, that’s too easy a culprit to blame. American guns and violence have been indicative of a culture that has been trigger-happy long before any MC came along in the 70s.
Video games? No. Kids across the world love video games just as much as Americans, but they're not shooting up their schools.
Perhaps it’s the readily available arsenal of automatic weapons that many have access to these days? Absolutely. Although Canadians have more guns per capita than Americans by a significant margin, no word of school shootings or domestic-made shoot 'em up terror plots come from north of the border.
Maybe we're just inherently violent in America.
That makes sense. The second Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
We now find ourselves in a increasingly insecure state caused by the fear of foreign terrorists. But who should we really be afraid of?
In 1999, the crisis at Columbine High School claimed the lives of 13 people. In the investigation following the shooting law enforcement officials revealed the shooters to be teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris who were also white supremacists. Since then, there have been 147 school shootings. One of the most popular being the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 2012.
The latest news includes last week's shooting by Jared Padgett in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Troutdale, where he wounded a teacher and claimed the life of 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman. A week prior, Padgett had written a report supporting the actions of Adolf Hitler during World War II. He allegedly lost his temper in class when classmates cross-examined his beliefs.
But this shooting wasn’t the only link to white supremacists. Two weeks ago, Las Vegas shooters Jared and Amanda Miller killed three people, including a police officer, before being confronted by law enforcement. Neighbors of the crazy couple say they were neo-Nazis.
Two months ago, three people were killed when former Ku Klux Klan leader Frazier Glenn Cross attacked two Jewish community centers near Kansas City, Missouri. And lest we forget, August 2012, the mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin that killed six people and wounded four others.
Although several of these aforementioned shootings involve young people, the American media, the rascally spin machine that it is, normally has a cookie cutter description to sum up the motivations and intentions of the assailants in question depending upon their ethnicity. If he’s white, which the vast majority of those charged or convicted of school shootings are, then he’s simply a troubled young man who is suffering from mental illness. But if he's Black or Hispanic, he’s a product of an impoverish environment, doomed to murder from the start. If he’s of Middle Eastern ancestry then he’s a terrorist.
Regardless, race isn't the real problem. The issue is access. Shootings seem to be occuring weekly yet there has been no movement on Capitol Hill to legislate access to automatic weapons? No Senate or Congressional Hearings regarding plans to stem this increasing tide of violence aimed at our children? Why?
There’s a rather simplistic way that we can stem gun violence. We could declare a moratorium on the civilian purchase of high-end military style assault weapons. And before you classify me as a liberal gun opponent please know this, President Ronald Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, both supported such a ban in 1994.
In a spring 1994 letter to lawmakers, Reagan, former Republican president Gerald Ford, and former Democratic president Jimmy Carter wrote, “While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals."
Yes, the god of all conservative rabble-rousers was himself a supporter of banning the assault rifle. Back in 1967, California's then governor, Reagan, signed the Mumford Act which prohibited the public carrying of loaded firearms. This bill drew national attention after the Black Panthers gathered on the California Capitol to protest it as a measure to limit their effectiveness.
Fast forward to modern times and we find an increasingly tumultuous society in which states (Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and Wyoming among others) are allowing ordinary citizens to openly carry firearms. Many states don't even require a permit to do so. Some say it is being done to stem the tide of these increasingly frequent instances of public shootings. But when has fighting fire with fire done anything but get everyone involved burned?
The increasing popularity of fringe groups like The Tea Party, as well as other groups that practice demagoguery as political strategy, have given Democrats in current power an uphill battle to get anything through.
And those who believe this is merely an issue of guns and the Second Amendment are missing the broader picture. It’s not just about weapons. It's about the elephant in the room: American terrorism.
Radical followers of white supremacist ideology will find any way to carry out their nefarious deeds. Is it a coincidence that many of the mass shootings, schools and malls included, were carried out by suicidal white supremacists?
Knowing this, shouldn't material and websites that espouse such views be banned? Perhaps, but that would infringe upon First Amendment Rights of free speech. But are security concerns worth editing the Constitution of the United States? There are claims that the Obama administration has done that with the scandal surrounding the NSA spying on Americans in the war on terror. Keeping an eye on foreign terrorists on American soil is important. But a war on those born and bred in this country with hate toward demographics seen as "unpure" and unworthy of living here – has yet to come to fruition.
The gun violence that is inflicted against and committed by African-American males in the inner city and the deep south is often on the nightly news as the picture of gun violence in America. However, it is not often that we hear of even the most heinous ghetto gangster killing multiple people at a time and when it does occur it’s because of poor aim and lack of training as innocents are struck by stray bullets. With hate-driven and deranged white supremacists rarely is there only one victim. Yet, the face that is feared is the cornrow-wearing ex-con whose mug shot is plastered on the screen of the local news outlet.
So the band plays on as major media outlets continue to overlook or ignore the growing danger of heavily armed and deranged American born terrorists. The shooting in Troutdale, Oregon was in the news for a day. Most stories never included the name of the shooter. Did it have anything to do with the fact that he was a minor? Or was it a concerted effort to downplay this tragic happening as simply a part of American society?
The effect of not addressing it properly during the increased coverage of hate-based shootings by the American media has made politicians on the right more rabid in their support for the gun lobby than ever. And those on the left are even more impudent at forcing through gun control laws.
Gun control is not gun confiscation. Gun control is the responsibility of local and federal government to limit the proliferation of battlefield weapons in the hands of irresponsible individuals, be they criminal, racist or terrorist in their motivations. The politicizing of this life and death matter means the blood of all the innocent men, women and children who have been gunned down since Columbine is on the hands of Congress, The Senate, The Supreme Court and both of the recent Presidents of the United States. Until this is done, Dear America, you continue to fail us all.